PHO705: Museum and Library Research

In pursuing a World War 1 theme, or having done so, it would make sense to expand on the photo projects context by building a stock of images and other research. This was done earlier at IWM Duxford (IWM, 2019) and The Black Watch Castle and Museum Perth. These visits proved useful in contextualising abstract work.

Options have recently been generated to expand themes in new directions in other words, other than military. In the interests of keeping shooting, it would be useful to visit a number of sites.

  • Imperial War Museum London
  • The Museum of Military Medicine, Aldershot
  • Wellcome Library


Black_Watch_Museum_Trust (2018) The Black Watch Castle and Museum Perth. Available at:

IWM (2019) Imperial War Museum Duxford. Available at:

IWM (2019) Imperial War Museum London. Available at:

Museum_of_Military_Medicine_Trust (2019) Museum of Military Medicine. Available at:

Wellcome_Trust (2019) Wellcome Library. Available at:

PHO705: Family Constellations

This reading is used to extend research-driven practice into Family Constellations

(Hellinger, 2011)
(Ulsamer, no date)
(Preiss, 2012)

A Return to Family Constellation Research

Family Constellation is now on the second iteration of research in connection with this photographic practice. When looked at before, the emphasis was on the title word Therapy: Family Constellation Therapy used to describe a group or individual interaction under the guidance of a facilitator. In this sense, it appeared to have a disconnect with Family and mitochondria.

In the interests of promoting the research-driven photographic practice, Family Constellation is now subjected to a more critical appraisal.

First indications are positive. Who we are as a dependance on who we came from, which does connect with the current project. A search for love in these connections is said to satisfy the soul and allow the individual in the present to become free of ant entanglement and give focus to their own life or in other terms from the method, give birth to themselves.

The language does appear unscientific, that of a guru yet on a commercial level selling a product or more accurately a service that works on a psychological basis in a manner perhaps Yoga does for the physical and spiritual.

At a cursory level, it is easy to dismiss Family Constellation unless the reader of it is happy to believe in its principles. Acceptance of approaches to help individuals grow into management roles in a business context is probably very similar and more familiar. Trust in strategies such as Transactional Analysis PAC or Emotional Intelligence EI is normally readily established. Other areas are more difficult to accept for some such as Myers Briggs categorisations which seem to be wholeheartedly accepted or are accepted within a collection of similar strategies, with outlined limitations or in the opposite and quite commonly outright rejected, potentially as a threat of some sort regarding manipulation. And so with Family Constellations, there appears to be the same kind of barriers to acceptance. Not being so well known a technique it may be more difficult for it to gain widespread acceptance. The feeling is there is bound to be and seems to be a body of followers.

If we take the above as an a priori position and set about to prove or disprove, then we have a way of moving forward. More reading is required.


Going into this research with an open mind is quite revealing. What is clear from (Preiss , 2012) is that a number of family situations documented here could or can be linked to the family narratives of the Photographic Project e.g. Relationships (Preiss, 2012, Loc 3081) with heavy fates. What is offered is a way of maintaining a healthy link to family in the past in such a way as to gain release from entanglement and become free from it and do so in a respectful and healing manner.

From a set on non-academic texts of all things has come a realisation that there can now be a disconnect with the heavy load of the past carried through the project. In fact, in radical terms, it becomes possible to disconnect from the subject matter, which has not been feasible until now.

Already the project has been on a trajectory away from the military endeavours of the past to family photography archive and flora.

Investment and Direction

To take the photo project and stop dead with it would be brave if not risky a move. Such a move would also mean having to write off costly investments relating to the original subject.

If the themes of empathy and loss were to be set aside, there still remains the artistic interest in abstraction as the natural expression of the author and the ever-growing theme around mitochondria, photographing healing and movement into creating art from a science of Biology.

Hear hangs a major decision. A decision needs to be made.

Staying with the methods developed for making abstract work is the decision. More emphasis is beginning to be placed on the mitochondrial theme. Research is also being conducted into the themes of spectres or ghosts and into the weird and eerie to draw out those elements.

The latter is base on the appearance of landscapes, seascapes and consistently but more frequently the appearance of ghost images.


Preiss, I. T. (2012) Family Constellations Revealed. 2nd Editio. Antwerp, Belgium: Indra Torsten Preiss.

Hellinger, B. (2011) Laws of Healing. Bischofswiesen, Germany: Hellinger Publications.

Ulsamer, B. (no date) The Art and Practice of Family Constellations. Edited by C. Beaumont. Kindle Unlimited.

PHO705: Phenomenology and the Simulacrum Specters of Marx

Spectres of Marx

This reading is used to extend research-driven practice into Themes of Politics and History. (Derrida, 1994)

The blog title has been chosen as a phenomenology of personal experience in relation to objects. And the Simulacrum as a means by which the camera creates a version of reality. From the photograph of healing glow a version of reality abstracted in a direction based on personal experience of place and of people.

And so “… to render an account of, the effects of ghosts, of simulacra, of ‘synthetic images’, …” (Derrida, 1994) Page 94.

In discussing exorcism as a means of creating death and its comparison to a Coroner issuing a certificate in which that which was living is no longer alive. “… the dead can often be more powerful than the living …” (Derrida, 1994) Page 60.

There are many references within the text with some connection to the appearance of ghost images amongst the abstract work of the photographic project.

Out of original photographs of healing sites, there appeared from time to time an occasional ghost image. In the previous module, there was a flood of such images. This leads to the question being asked about the appearance of ghosts. There is a strong emotional effect in finding spectres and while they can be seen by the author, they were also clearly spotted by visitors to an exhibition of the work.

Derrida is a renowned philosopher who in writing about the spectre of Marx, yes in a context of the fall of communism, covers throughout the text the theme of apparitions.

In a discussion of the phenomenological and of the simulacrum there appears the following observation:

“For there is no ghost, there is never any becoming-specter of the spirit without at least an appearance of flesh, in a space of invisible visibility, like the dis-appearing of an apparition. For there to be (a) ghost, there must be a return to the body, but to a body that is more abstract than ever” P 157.

The photographic project takes that which may be invisible and makes it visible and does so from flesh and in making an abstract form. As Derrida contemplates the Specters of Marx, then so the project contemplates the spectres of ancestors. The theme thus far has been versed not as those lost but of those who suffered their loss. The mother who lost her son or soldier who lost a brother.

“Mourning always follows a trauma” (Derrida, 1994) Page 121 strikes a chord. On discovering the trauma of those previously not known there followed no doubt a form of mourning, even if displaced from the family it directly impacted onto to those who uncovered the events.

As quoted (ibid) forms of trauma, the classification of which is attributed to Freud include psychological trauma (the power of the unconscious over the conscious ego), and biological trauma. In the photo project, psychological trauma could be linked to the unconscious element of creating abstract imagery including ghost images, while the biological may be responsible for creating identification and the effect on the body. If so, these are powerful creative processes.

On writing on “Time is out of joint”, as Derrida wrestles with an interpretation of “… one time in the past, how would it be valid for all times?” (ibid) Page 61 again one is reminded of the photo project having a theme from mitochondria being unchanged for thousands of years and so of 100 years of history being collapsed into a moment.

By pure coincidence the last portfolio exhibited was monochrome with the red of blood – the cover of this book is monochrome and red.

Ghost Dance

Ghost Dance. (McMullen, 1983)” Through the experiences of two women in Paris and London, Ghost Dance offers a stunning analysis of the complexity of our conceptions of ghosts memory and the past.” – IMDB. This arthouse film is available on YouTube and features Jacques Derrida as himself.


Derrida, J. (1994) Spectres of Marx. New York, Abingdon Oxon: Routledge. Available at:

McMullen, K. (1983) Ghost Dance. France, England: YouTube. Available at:

PHO705: Beyond the Unheimlich

This reading is used to extend research-driven practice into Beyond the Unheimlich (Fisher, 2016)

The Weird

A quality of the weird is the presence that does not belong. (Fisher, 2016) Page 61

The subject matter here is uncanny and although it is an essay about literature falling into the categories of the weird or eerie, the text relates to the photo project and the author’s experience. In creating imagery in the abstract, an image, that is strangely familiar emerges. The photograph of healing that translated into a seascape, reminiscent of the mudflats off of the Solway Coast. This place is in the southern Scottish lands, once lived in and where the historic research and photography was conducted. The German unheimlich relates to a feeling of the creepy. Unheimlich is used by Freud as a such creates a bias in meaning. This makes it difficult to focus on variations in the translation, it seems. Unhomely is one preferred example overtaken by Freud’s writing.

An obstruction found by (Fisher, 2016) Page 8 is an association with the genres of Horror and Science Fiction from which the author goes on to write of the common feature of “The strange – not the horrific.” and then to highlight the fascination for what “lies beyond standard perception, cognition and experience.”

Although abstract outputs of the photo project often have a sense of that which is there that would not be expected to be there, the result when colourful creates a sense of pleasure in the viewer as sensed at a recent Exhibition at which additional work, that which did not make the final edit, was shown.

In (Fisher, 2016) Page 39 there is a quotation from Zizek observing a condition of overtaking or “transference to find ourselves at a later point which we have already been.” The photo project, by contrast, collapses time into a moment. The present becomes linked to a past time one hundred years ago. Simultaneously, those from one hundred years ago transfer into the contemporary moment and this is where a psychological identification takes place from the present to those from the past. In this, the dead remain dead but the story that their lives contained becomes present. There is a knowing that their wounds healed by the same source of mitochondria that our connected flesh experience in healing.

(ibid) Page 40. Unlike in the 1969 novella, Behold the Man, the prospect of transporting back 2000 years to live the life of Christ including his crucifixion is barred. The photo project theme is based on common mitochondria passed down the maternal line. There would need to be a connection through the matriarchy back to Mary Magdelaine would never become proven. Such events are of course far beyond the project scope which only has certainty over a recorded history of one hundred years.

As the earlier form of the project had taken shape and images had been made, there was an uncanny Exhibition experience where Rachel Howard’s paintings (Howard, 2018), were seen to have distinct visual similarities. Howard’s paintings carried the Catholic theme of Christ’s crucifixion. This was blogged in a previous module and whilst there was an overwhelming experience of the weird, it was an example of coincidence. Photo image post-processing had a similar effect to an easel based art in which gravity acted on paint. Nevertheless, an unheimlich experience.

In (Fisher, 2016) Page 45 mention is made “There is another type of weird effect that is generated by strange loops”. In human biology, the mitochondria are set apart from the nuclear DNA within the cell. In the inter-spacial region, the mitochondrial DNA form loops, and act as the energy powerhouses of the bodies cells. There they create ATP molecules for energy storage and transfer. The mitochondria have been captured by the human cells and adapted to life there. However, the mitochondria are an ancient form of cellular structure that exists in a bacterial world where they are able to exist independently. (Cowell, 2019) Within the sperm, mitichondria power the race to the unfertilised egg. This endeavour is not rewarded as the egg with its own mitochondria overpower it.

Finally, on the subject of the weird, (Fisher, 2016) Page 58 describes how “we must attend to the strange folds, burrows and passageways of Inland Empire’s weird architectures. Here, there is a crossover into the miniature world of human biology. The loops that mitochondria form, increase the surface area through a crinkled effect of cristae. The outer membrane only is adapted to allow the passage of very small molecules into the mitochondria. Then through the various complex effects enzymes allow glucose to split into carbon components at the surface as the Kleb citric cycle takes place. During the process, an unequal potential is created between the outside and inside of the mitochondria whereupon further enzymes allow some of the processed results to reenter the mitochondria through multiple narrow channels. There is an expiration process, in which carbon dioxide and water are released. What is weird and striking is the architecture of restricted access and limited re-entry and uncanny parallel to the architecture of the fictional world in the Inland Empire.

Again, this is weird or unheimlich.

The Eerie

“The sensation of the eerie clings to certain kinds of physical spaces or landscapes.” (Fisher, 2016) Page 61

In the photo project, as post-processing unfolds, there evolve such spaces or landscapes. As with the eerie cry and its effect on the imagination, there may be a hint of something being missing. In the photo project, the spaces created are devoid of people yet their mark may be found on the landscape.

Update: reading into the eerie recommenced in the Christmas break.

(Fisher, 2016) Page 97″Repeatedly throughout his fiction, Garner points to the eerie power of the landscape, reminding us of the ways in which physical spaces condition perception, and of the ways in which particular terrains are stained by traumatic events” … “the mythic is part of the virtual infrastructure which makes human life as such possible”:

An interesting comment in (Fisher, 2016) Page 109:

“There are ghosts in the machine, and we are they, and they are we.”

Of portrayal in the film Interstellar (Fisher, 2016) Page 121:

“The immediate temptation here is to dismiss this (portrayal) as nothing more than kitsch sentimentality. Part of the power of Interstellar, however, comes from its readiness to take risks appearing to be naive, as well as emotionally and conceptually excessive.”

Clearly, there are potential traps of kitsch etc to be avoided in the photo project.


Cowell, I. D. (2019) Epigenetics – It’s not just genes that make us. Available at:

Fisher, M. (2016) The Weird and the Eerie. London, [England]: Repeater Books. Available at:

Howard, R. (2018) Repetition is Truth via Dolorosa. Edited by A. C. Beard Jason. London: Other Criteria Books. Available at:

PHO705: Research-Driven Practice

With the renewed focus called for in today’s Module Leader Group Critique that students drive their work forward as a research-driven practice, then it makes good sense to ramp up on this in the blog.

Research that ran strongly in an earlier module runs a lower level of engagement after a busy period of making and so the time is right to conduct more in-depth analysis.

A recent blog post highlighted areas of research interest, omitted sadly from the proposal by way of four texts.

In building the research, these other works now extend reading into:
Beyond the Unheimlich (Fisher, 2016)
Specters of Marx Phenomenology and the Simulacrum (Derrida, 1994)
Place (Philosophy) and Memory (Trigg, 2013)

Also on the Subject of Family Constellations
(Ulsamer, no date)
(Family Constellations Revealed. 2nd Edition, 2012)


Derrida, J. (1994) Spectres of Marx. New York, Abingdon Oxon: Routledge. Available at:

Family Constellations Revealed. 2nd Editio (2012). Antwerp, Belgium: Indra Torsten Preiss.

Fisher, M. (2016) The Weird and the Eerie. London, [England]: Repeater Books. Available at:

Trigg, D. (2013) The Memory of Place A Phenomenology of the Uncanny. Athens: Ohio University Press. Available at:

Ulsamer, B. (no date) The Art and Practice of Family Constellations. Edited by C. Beaumont. Kindle Unlimited.

PHO705: Feedback on Final Proposal

This was a very useful 1-2-1 session guided by a true professional. Thank you for helping me to progress my work.

During the 1-2-1 there were some exciting and helpful turns, that I’d not expected. Thankfully I was able to address each point.


Referencing had been deficient in my proposal. I’d not planned it to be a rushed job, but it was what it was, and I accept the comment. I’d since blogged my references, and was able to show these in my fully refreshed CRJ blog here.

In practice, my work is back on track, I just wasn’t able to assemble and organise references in time for the Proposal submission.

Proposal Organisation – Headings

A comment was made on the Proposal organisation. There was a need for more headings. The proposal was likened to a stream of consciousness, a comment which I love. There is a time and place I accept, but to be recognised as writing in the style of Roland Barthes, has to be an honour, surely?


Some assertions in my Proposal required evidencing. I can rectify the problem now, even if only for my own satisfaction. Points relate to detailing:

  • A planned Meeting with a Kodak scientist and specialist in digital imaging and medical imaging who works in the cosmetics industry.
  • A visit to a Digital Imaging Symposium in December – a Kodak scientist I’ve known since 2010 is set to give me an introduction. Note to self, I need to catch up with him on Friday.

My reviewer wanting to know more was encouraging. The project has been moving forward from interpretations of Biology theme and begins to enter a medical world of digital imaging. Why so? This originally was simply to validate a technical point around healing glow and Infrared emissions.

However, this research led me to investigate a bridge between Art and Science. especially following a Symposium back in September.

A further point that required evidencing concerned:

  • Creativity and the subconscious mind.

Direct evidence is present in the making of my work. The process is experiential. Appreciation of how abstract art is created cannot be assumed for the non-practitioner audience.

In academic terms, this is probably insufficient, or so I now realise. With the formal approach, I reference:

(Kandinsky, no date) Page ii on our spiritual relationship with the primitives, “… these artists sought to express in their work only internal truths, renouncing, in consequence, all considerations of external form”. So too I.

(Scarry 1987) page 21. “The human action of making entails two distinct phases – making up (mental imaging) and making-real (endowing the mental object with a material or verbal form).

Scarry ably described then, what became second nature in my work.

The Critical Review Journal CRJ (this blog)

As I’d shown my updated reference post and this later conjured interest in the CRJ. I was able to show a couple of relevant posts and by navigating to the bottom of the page, demonstrate the organisation:

  • Tag Cloud
  • Category selector and
  • Free text search

Next came the test, to retrieve a Portfolio from a prior module. That worked smoothly and was a testament to the preparations made. The search was a genuine thing as the Portfolio was then displayed and discussed. What followed was a connected piece on the next steps of project development. This at the time was a screen share of a prepared PDF on my computer desktop. Since the 1-2-1 the PDF has been posted here:



Kandinsky, W. (no date) Concerning the Spiritual in Art. Edited by M. Sadlier.

Scarry, E. (1987) The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. New York, London: Oxford University Press-23 978-0-19-504996-1.

PHO705: Publication Research

What are the options I feel might work in presenting my processed images?

From my research (Colberg, 2017) page 46 consideration is given to different groups having different degrees of visual sophistication, and this should shape the concept. As a book publication with the intent of avoiding small edition size, it is appropriate to make a photobook accessible. I should avoid making it overly complicated. I ought to add text that helps the viewer understand it.

This is my first obvious challenge as to date I’ve been aiming at multilayered meaning and have preferred by analogy Shakespeare prose rather than Daily Mirror. What is to be gained by trying to be too clever (and potentially failing at it too)?

(Colberg, 2017) page 47 also draws attention to the “zine form often looking like a sloppily made photobook.” I may have made the point elsewhere that I use the zine as part of my workflow when creating a hand-bound book. It is not a deliverable item in its own right.


(Colberg, 2017) page 47 discusses narrative and how it both means “story” (as in what is the story being told here?) and the process or technique of telling a story (as in: how is the story being told?)

I have learned that “it is important to keep these two aspects of a photobook apart: what is the story? How is the story being told?”

Then does there have to be a story. No. Bit most photography os about something so there is probably some sort of story.

I’m going to try and keep these points in mind as I look at some options.

I have these ideas to take into the review this week, Week 6:

  • Use mixed images where archives and abstracts are somehow layered. Until I try it out I won’t really know how effective this will be.
  • Take each abstract as the main image and have around it two small related pictures; a family archive photo in one position, a narrative picture of a person or a newspaper quote of them.

The latter translates through the form of a timeline and should be comprehensible. A complication to this is the idea of time collapsed alluded to here. I now explore the metaphor of a ladder where there is the transmission of the gene as an information carrier. In fact the DNA double helix is visually like a ladder. At each rung, of my ladder there is a photographic archive print relating to relatives who share in common biology.

Still running for a book publication:

  • Use a template approach such as discussed previously by adapting the layout from Rachel Howard’s Repetition is Truth exhibition book. 

The structure is:

  • Interview (including contextualising photos in miniature)
  • Prose (also the same with contextualising photos in miniature)
  • The main body of abstract paintings created using the hidden brush of gravity.
  • A collection of abstract miniatures giving a kind of contact sheet view accompanied by minor captions.

Adopting Howard’s method for me overcomes a problem of wanting to be like this artist and major in abstract imagery. I’m aware of personal significance I had gained from Howard’s exhibition that is not transferable to my audience. Then it is probably too early in the FMP module to bar more considered options.


Colberg, J. (2017) Understanding Photo Books the Form and Content of the Photographic Book. Edited by Taylor and Francis. New York: Focal Press.

PHO705: A Quick Look at Learning Outcomes LO3, LO4 and LO6 in Preparation for a 1-2-1 in Week 6

I comment here on LO3, LO4, and LO6 as areas of focus. Perhaps I did not communicate these strongly in my Final Proposal.

LO3 Critical Contextualisation of Practice

I contextualise my photography and image creation in terms of healing and art, an earlier identification with suffering, along with the spirituality of connecting with family and our remembrance of them. The following references I associate my with:

LO4 Professional Location of Practice

The audience breaks down as follows:

  • Family is the immediate audience. My work emerged from family as a collaboration.
  • Our staff and students within the University are audiences. This a step towards going public through assignments, portfolio reviews and critiques.
  • Accomplished photographers and digital artists I would reach out to as my primary audience.
  • Clinical photographers and scientist experts in digital and medical imaging are an emerging target audience. At present, I use the scientific community to test theory and assumptions.
  • Followers of my work, may or may not represent a professional context yet interaction here often brings pleasant surprises. Some from this group are from teaching or an arts and crafts background. They actively express interest in my work and have done so now for several years. Followers have earned special consideration.

There are several tried ways and other potential ways of reaching out. The exhibition has to be the main driving force, as experienced in an earlier module. From this springs the marketing and publicity of reaching a particular milestone. This would lead to a rich media environment and supporting materials and social media campaign.

A book is a recommended outcome for my work having demonstrated strong skills in making in an earlier module. I would create a book dummy and would seek to convert it into a professionally bound work. Numbers of interested parties might tally around ten at a first count. I need to give this more consideration.

Even if I restrict the list to these for now, I klnow from experience there is a whole lot more making:

  • Video for contextualisation.
  • Audio recording as for creating atmosphere.
  • Online gallery

As an emerging digital artist, it would fit to occupy a gallery space in one of the online communities. At present, this has to be aspirational as there is so much more to find out. I’ve participated in virtual world exhibitions several times, explicitly using Linden Second Life, a virtual world. 

From an online world perspective creating a gallery is untried for me. I’m sure I would need to involve a virtual world developer. This is exciting, really exciting, even it flies in the face of materiality. I’m thinking through how the name Second Life becomes connected with the theme of my work which is really an aside. However, I see a great connection with the title, as sentiment and as the digital presentation of digital making. This would be a true mark of progress, given ancestors could never have predicted the rise of the internet and the discovery of knowledge of genetics. At some point, I was going to get carried away and here we are. I really need to focus right down on making rather than being distracted by technology. This can be saved for later.

LO6 Written and Oral Skills

My chosen area has been hard to convey to a general audience. This circumstance has been a constant for my time on this MA course and it is only through repeated practice that I hone this skill. The starting position each tome involves a trap. It is always too easy to over-elaborate and justify my work. In subsequent iterations this communication becomes more crisp.


Batchen, G. (2004) Forget me not. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. Available at:

Kandinsky, W. (no date) Concerning the Spiritual in Art. Edited by M. Sadlier.

Scarry, E. (1987) The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. New York, London: Oxford University Press-23 978-0-19-504996-1.

Tammi, M. (2017) Sick Photography Representations of Sickness in Art Photography. Edited by M. Tammi. Lahti, Finland: Aalto University Publication- Aalto ARTS Books Helsinki. Available at: